California voters lose their way

In a country that just had a milestone victory for civil rights, we seem to have somehow backslid a bit the same day. What was recognized across the U.S. as a shout for equality for all people, despite the inequities of the past, seems to have been but dimly heard in the voting booths of California.

The civil rights movement was based on similar ideals to the American Revolution – the idea of equality and certain inalienable rights. We have already acknowledged that visible differences are not viable for discrimination and neither are differences of culture or religion. How then can we not extend the full protection of the law, as well as the full conveniences of its navigation, to those who prefer different sexual partners?

The idea of marriage as a religious rite, owned by the hierarchal society in one or other organization is fine, if insular. The concern is that there is a separation of church and state in this country, and the idea of a civil union unattached to church rites is perfectly valid. There are, however, a set of streamlined legal conveniences that are extended as a package deal when you get married. That there is not an equivalent convenience from the state for civil unions is patently unfair.

Now, we are again legislating bigotry, with the echoes of what should have been its death knell in this country. Granted, there are other possible reasons for Proposition 8’s passage, such as confusing language, but there was enough concern and awareness raised over this issue that there should be no excuse. California, long thought a place where the qualifications for success had nothing to do with sexual orientation, where it was safe to be "out," has effectively disowned a huge portion of its population – one that contributes heavily to its vibrant culture.

Justice John Harlan’s dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson can be extended effectively to Proposition 8, "Indeed, such legislation as that here in question is inconsistent not only with that equality of rights which pertains to citizenship, national and state, but with the personal liberty enjoyed by everyone within the United States."

There is nothing monstrous about preferring one person over another, so why is there a problem with gender? Any restrictions of religion are irrelevant, as this is not a Christian country any more than it is Scientologist, Urantian or Hindu. We have a responsibility to preserve the rights of those who would be crushed by the juggernaut of religiosity – not erode them further.

We do not think twice about whom we marry when we decide to love someone. We are caught up in the indefinably compelling nature of the mystery of that person, not about whether they are acceptable in the eyes of society. Homosexual partnerships are as valid as heterosexual partnerships. They have similar trials and tribulations, with the additional stressor of civic acceptance looming over them.

Mohammed, an anthropology freshman, can be reached via [email protected]

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